[QUOTE=kittytoast;30900868]Oh ****, idk why it didn't post! I'm sorry!!
I guess I can forgive you for this...
...But I will punish you by making you write another chapter ^_^
In all seriousness though, this is my favorite ff out of all the ff I have read.
I reviewed it already at ff.net, but I feel like I should post something here...
First of all, great chapter. Nice job, mate *friendly jab in the shoulder*
Second, I'd like to give a suggestion - give more interaction of our doves with other characters. For example, i don't know why, but now I want Garen to meet Riven in Kalamanda... Whatever, forget I said anything.
Keep up your great work, wishing lots of inspiration and free time
This chapter really made me feel bad for Garen. He's happy for what might be the first time in his life, and now it's gone. That was skillfully done, though I think the polygraph felt a bit out of place. Well, then again Piltover's got some crazy stuff. Either way, you really made me hate Jarvan III this chapter.
Anyways, consider me on the edge of my seat. Keep it up.
Still needs more Draaaaaaven.
First off, thanks are in order to the following summoners: Theamp4, AerithRayne, and CakeandBacon from the LoL forums, and Dreaded Rasengan from and Tsunami State from for being all around amazing people, giving me awesome ideas, and being so very supportive And really, thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed or followed or faved or anything! I try to reply to everyone who reviews but I know I've probably missed a couple here and there, and there are lots of anon reviews, but I appreciate every single person's input You guys and gals are the absolute BEST!
So, interesting note: I didn't put much thought into the size of Valoran in chapter 3 when I was making up how long it would take to travel from Demacia to Noxus or halfway to the League, so in this chapter out of curiosity, I google mapped it. Turns out, the distance I came up with would be about a meager 125 miles to the League, and 250 miles between the two cities, essentially from one side of Valoran to the other (about the distance from Austin to Sweetwater, for any Texans out there). That'll teach me to make **** up, lol. Ah well, I'm gonna stick with it for the sake of continuity.
PS: This chapter was a lot longer, but I chopped it for the next chapter. So, chapter 11 should be done pretty quick! There's just too much to address at this one moment in time! =_= I'll finish it up in the next chapter, I promise!
When Things Fall Apart: Part One
Katarina was able to spend several days relaxing at home before the duel actually took place, and she was grateful for the time with her sister, even though there was an underlying tension over the events that were to occur. To her surprise, even Talon, who usually went about his own business when in Noxus, hung about the house with them, and even if it was only temporary, Katarina felt like they were a normal family.
While the rest of Noxus considered Keiran Darkwill the favorite to win, the three DuCouteau's knew the Master Tactician would win without a problem.
"I don't understand why you two want to watch Swain win," Cassiopeia brooded. "Because he will win, as much as I wish Keiran would run him through."
Talon answered for the both of them, "It's motivation to keep going."
The snake-woman clicked her tongue, but accepted the answer. "Well, go on then," she ordered while she slid up the stairs. "I'll be waiting!"
"I can't believe this is happening," Katarina muttered under her breath to Talon as they stood in the shadows of the High Command's grand hall. "And I can't help but feel it's my fault."
It was brilliant the way Jericho Swain outsmarted Keiran Darkwill in the duel; the latter was painfully helpless against Swain's magic, and the former was as composed as ever, even after the impressive demonstration of his superior tactics and strength.
"Darius," he called, loud enough for the hushed spectators to hear. "Why don't you evaluate the strength of Keiran Darkwill." There was no hesitation from the hardened soldier; in one swift move, he brought down his axe and with it the sickening sound of Keiran's head hitting the stone floor. The crowds erupted into cheers at the bloody show, and, with Darius at his side, Swain limped over to the appraising members of the High Command.
"There isn't anyone left alive who could oppose Swain now," Talon whispered as each member of the High Command slowly raised their hands. "Darius made sure of that. It's not your fault."
Katarina shook her head as Swain raised his hand that wasn't clutching his cane, rousing a unanimous roar from the crowd: "Blood for Noxus!"
To Katarina's surprise, Talon hissed, "It should have been Marcus in that position," his normally impassive face twisted in irritation. "Swain doesn't deserve these people's respect."
Tentatively, the red-head placed a gloved hand on Talon's arm, causing the assassin to flinch and replace his usual stoic mask. "We will find him," she swore, "and I will personally stab a knife into Swain's throat."
The hooded man flashed a sinister grin and mumbled, "Not if I get to him first," as he turned with Katarina to slip out of the hall. Barely were they outside the entrance when a group of writers from the League of Legends' Journal of Justice who were waiting at the exit, spotted the conspicuous red-head and rushed her. A frustrated glance in Talon's direction revealed that the assassin had already vanished. She sighed.
"Miss Sinister Blade!" the closest one chimed. "What do you have to say about Jericho Swain's coronation as the Grand General of Noxus?"
"Congratulations," she sneered, pushing past, only to have another accost her.
"Rumors abound that Swain might have been involved in Noxus's loss of Kalamanda to the League. What do you say to about those rumors?"
Katarina paused, considering her options. Her popularity hadn't waned yet, but she couldn't just say what she wished about the new Grand General. "If he gave Kalamanda to the League in exchange for power in Noxus, it was a bold move. A strong move," she started slowly. A threatening smile worked it's way onto her lips as she finished, "The strong may rise to power here, but this wouldn't be Noxus if there weren't always others with the strength to challenge them." This time, she flashed away before she could be questioned again.
She meant what she said, and hoped the paper wouldn't change her words. The general population would read it as a statement in support of Swain, and that was fine considering the appearance she needed to maintain. But it was the threat underneath that made her smile as she dashed back to her home. All she needed was the strength to challenge.
"Can't believe you left me to deal with the Journal of Justice," Katarina pouted, punching Talon in the shoulder. She'd arrived home and followed the sound of her sister's laughter to find Talon and Cassiopeia conversing in the den, a fact which she found amusing; two years ago, Cass went out of her way to make their surrogate brother feel like an outsider in their family. How things changed, in two short years.
"They wouldn't want to talk to Talon anyway," Cassiopeia interjected with a smirk, earning a look from the man. "You're like the face of Noxus, Kat." The last part of the mage's statement held a note of bitterness.
"Whatever," the red-head mumbled, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. She knew her sister, despite her almost unbearably haughty attitude, was still self-conscious about her form. If it were up to Katarina, she would let Cass be the one in limelight in a heartbeat.
"Oh! I just remembered," her sister exclaimed, pushing off the couch she was sprawled out on and sliding across the room, grabbing an envelope from the end table. "You got a letter while you were gone," she said as she tossed the paper to Katarina.
The fighter inspected the envelope but found that it was blank, aside from her name printed neatly in the center, so she curiously ripped it open, Cassiopeia peering over her shoulder.
Her face paled as she read the opening line:
Welcome back to Noxus. I take it "relationships" with Demacia are going well? It is such a shame that a once-powerful Champion like yourself
would resort to an alliance with our enemy; what an unfortunate show of weakness. Perhaps we should meet to discuss your future as
a representative of our city-state. I am not unwilling to negotiate. Tonight at 10, in the High Command lounge, if you would,
and please note that failure to appear will leave me no choice but assume your guilt.
"What did you do?!" Cassiopeia shrieked as she grabbed Katarina's arm, her clawed fingertips digging into her skin.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence!" the assassin snarled, yanking her arm away but cutting it on her sister's claws in the process. "You know I've only done enough to follow father's trail!"
Talon snatched the letter from her hand and skimmed it, pointing out, "It sounds like it's just because you worked with Jarvan. He said he would negotiate, just say you were gaining his trust for a cleaner assassination or something."
"Swain willing to negotiate?" Cass sneered. "Lies. This is a death sentence!"
Wiping at her bleeding arm, Katarina snapped, "And if I don't go, then what? He'll just say whatever he wants about it anyway! I might as well go and try to kill him!"
"Stop it," Talon interrupted, glowering at the arguing women. "What's done is done. We can only work with what we have now. Isnt' that what Marcus would say?" Each reluctantly grumbled their assent. "Kat has a point," he added. "I can go with her."
"No," the assassin said slowly. "Let me go alone."
Talon let out a short laugh. "That's stupid. You'd die for sure."
"You're both stupid," Cassiopeia muttered. "Get your heads out of your asses and think about it for a second. If any other member of the High Command sent this, I would say just go and kill him, but it's Swain. He's powerful, in command of Noxus, and there's no reason for him to want to negotiate. If he's working with the Black Rose, then you've been nothing but a nuisance to him that he would love to get rid of."
Cassiopeia levelled a paralyzing stare at her sister and finished, "If you go, you will die. He's the Grand General, so he can make up any reason he wants to about why he killed you, probably one that ruins our family and lets him come after me and Talon. Either way, our house is done. You might as well live and try to correct the damage."
Both Katarina and Talon stared mutely, stunned, until the former choked out, "But, I-"
"None of us could have known Swain would rise as fast as he did," the snake-woman interrupted. "And after becoming General it would have only been a matter of time before he made a move against us."
"Oh, so just like that, it's over?!" Katarina cried, her hands bunching into fists at her side. "I refuse to believe this is the only answer!"
Abruptly Talon chimed in, "How did Swain know? You were so careful."
Against her will, Vayne's voice echoed back in Katarina's mind: LeBlanc is always watching.
"****," she mumbled. "LeBlanc. She must have spies all over the damn place."
"This is getting ridiculous," Cassiopeia said with a shake of her head. "We've got to kill her."
"Wish it were that easy," Talon laughed. "She's harder to find than Marcus." The three joined in a short fit of grim laughter, before a sober mood settled over them.
"What are we going to do? Should we leave?" Cassiopeia whispered, locking eyes with Talon.
"We could stay and kill whoever they send," the man suggested. "It's not like the three of us aren't strong enough."
Cass perked up and added, "And if we killed them all, maybe we'd impress the High Command!"
Katarina considered it, but shook her head. "If Darius and his stupid brother come, we might be able to fight them off, but Cass isn't as mobile as we are. She'd be a sitting target. Besides, if Swain just wants us dead, no amount of attention from the rest of the High Command is going to save us."
Talon shared a frustrated glance with Cassiopeia before concluding, "Then the League would probably be the safest place right now."
The red-head shifted her gaze between her sister and brother, suddenly feeling very tired. As a child, she was presented with many options for the future, and she chose the blade. Would things have turned out differently if she hadn't stubbornly insisted on being an assassin like her father? For all her proficiency in the art of killing, she was helpless to protect her family, to stop Swain, find LeBlanc-
Cassiopeia was waving a clawed hand in her face as she snapped back to attention, which she swatted away in mild irritation. "What?"
"What do you mean, what?" her sister proclaimed, crossing her hands across her chest. "We need to get some things together."
Katarina nodded, following her sister upstairs but separating to enter her room. Rarely did she stay at home, as evident by the light coating of dust across everything she owned, but she dutifully searched through her few belongings for things to take.
From the closet she grabbed a few spare sets of pants and tops and changed into a clean set of black clothes after tossing her dirty ones on the floor. The clean ones went into her pack and she turned to survey the rest of her desolate room.
There were various items she'd held onto from her childhood resting atop her dresser: a ragged toy rabbit, the first knife she'd trained with, a picture of her, Cass, and Talon training as awkward adolescents. Despite the situation, Katarina smiled softly; at least she still had those two.
Neatly folded beside the photo and untouched by dust was Garen's jacket, which she'd carried with her all the way from his house to hers. Opening her pack, she shoved the jacket in at the bottom and placed the photo in a side pocket.
There were clothes from parties and political events from years past which she would likely never wear again. Hung along the walls were sixteen daggers from her father, all worn from use, for every birthday she'd celebrated from age eight to the time he disappeared, but they would stay in their places.
Katarina's green eyes stung as she touched the hilt of one of the weapons at her back: The last dagger she'd received from Marcus, and one of the knives at her side, her father's favorite blade she'd recovered from LeBlanc. She quickly turned to leave the room, shutting the door of her old life with a soft click.
"It's 10:00 General," Darius stated. "What would you like us to do?"
Swain's eyes wrinkled slightly, indicating the sinister smile hidden beneath his collar. "Let's see if we can make her change her mind." Turning to address the small assembly of soldiers in front of him, the General declared in his raspy voice, "Katarina and Cassiopeia DuCouteau and the assassin Talon are now fugitives of Noxus and are to be executed on sight. Move out."
Darius followed his men in saluting before leading them out of the High Command headquarters and toward the House DuCouteau, leaving Swain alone save for the figure standing next to him.
"It's likely they've already fled the city," the Tactician said to the man. "You're to go to the League of Legends to keep an eye on them. Don't let them leave alive. And while you're there, deliver this letter to the Headsman's Pride."
He handed the letter to the figure who stuffed it in his showy belt. He wouldn't do it because Swain asked; he would do it because Katarina had been taking up too much of his precious spotlight around Noxus lately. Idly spinning a double-bladed axe with a subtle flick of his wrist, Draven grinned as he sauntered out of the hall, declaring to himself, "I have the best job."
The three DuCouteau's were climbing the hill outside the city when they saw the soft glow of a fire flicker in the Ivory Ward. Cassiopeia clutched Katarina's hand and Talon drifted to her side.
"Do you think that's... our house?" the snake-woman whispered, although she knew the answer as well as the others.
"We can't stop until we reach the League," Katarina replied, pulling on her sister to start moving. "Let's go." Silently, she pleaded with whoever was coming to catch up, so she could personally slit every single one of their throats.
True to plan, they did not rest for more than an hour or two at a time, and recklessly charged forward with no care for stealth, as the sound of Cassiopeia's scales along the ground could not be muted. Although she was generally ashamed about her half-animal state, Cass modestly announced that she would be the best to stand guard when they absolutely had to stop, explaining that she was especially sensitive to vibrations in the ground. Katarina couldn't help but grin proudly at her sister's composition.
The DuCouteau's talked little throughout their trek, but when one started to fall behind, the other two offered enough encouragement to get them going again. With how supportive Talon was being, Katarina was embarrassed she'd ever considered that he might betray them. For how well he knew his way around the Noxian underground, he could have stayed in Noxus and never been found, so she felt honored that he would choose to go with her and Cass.
A little over a day later in the middle of the night when the Champions staggered up the steps to the Institute of War, Katarina started to ruminate on the idea of never standing again. They'd shaved almost an entire day from they journey, but from the pain she felt as her socks and boots rubbed against her skin, the red-head was afraid to see how blistered her feet were.
There were no hassles as they each checked out a temporary room, none wishing to attempt setting up a permanent residency in their current state. Leaving the city had been almost dream-like, but arriving at the Institute made the harsh reality apparent; this was their home now.
Katarina stripped out of her dusty clothes and rinsed away the dirt from road. There were too many thoughts racing through her mind, and all she wanted to do was sleep, so she forced them all down, burying them underneath the exhaustion; she could deal with it in the morning. She fell onto her bed and sleep quickly spared her from her thoughts.
When Things Fall Apart: Part Two
A loud, insistent knock roused the assassin from her slumber. Grumbling all the while, she shouted, "Shut up! I'll be there in a sec'!" as she rolled out of bed and grabbed a robe from the closet.
"What?" she hissed, flinging open the door and wincing as sunlight flooded her eyes.
"S-sorry Miss Katarina," the male summoner who stood outside apologized. "There's been a problem with your Champion status. Well, um, you and Cassiopeia, along with Talon, actually. You're supposed to report to the admissions office right away to get it fixed."
She scoffed in response and slammed the door, her face drawn in irritation. Only the High Command or herself could change her Champion status, so as she dressed and equipped herself for the day, she wondered what lies Swain told to make this happen.
With a set of knives and her daggers in place, the assassin stomped down to her sister's room, only knocking once before her sister answered, awake and ready. "Talon came by and let me know he's already gone ahead," she explained as she ducked under the door frame to join her sister in the hall. "I don't think he ever sleeps."
"Oh, he already came by did he?" Katarina smirked. "He didn't come wake me up."
Cassiopeia narrowed her eyes, threatening, "I'm not in a joking mood."
The assassin scrunched her nose in response, earning a light shove from her sister. Maybe it was a combination of all the events of the last day and a rude awakening, but she was on edge, her daggers begging for a fight. Her expression must have betrayed her blood lust as the pair was given a wide berth from summoners and champions alike while they moved purposefully through the grand halls.
The closer they came to the admissions office, the thinner the crowds became until they finally reached the landing, where there was no one in sight. Talon stood waiting near the wooden office doors, which was situated in the corner, but his back was to the sisters' approach as he gazed down the adjacent hallway. Each of the Champions walked down that marble hallway to the ornately engraved doors only once: Going to their Judgement. Being near it again was disconcerting to all three of the DuCouteau's.
Talon turned to acknowledge them and they wordlessly exchanged sullen glances as he pulled open a door and held it for the women to pass through.
"We've been waiting for you," said a familiar-looking woman in summoner's robes, who rose from her seat in the receiving room when the door shut behind Talon. "I'm summoner Lessa Carin. Please follow me." The tiny summoner led them into a sparse room containing only an unlit fireplace, a handful of chairs, and a large window with a view of the Targon mountain range.
Already seated were Senior Summoners Ezekiel Montrose and Sander Grieve, as well as High Councilors Keirsta Mandrake and Vessaria Kolminye.
"Please have a seat," Keirsta intoned softly, gesturing to the three chairs across from her. "As you were told, we called you here today to discuss the continuation of your duties as Champions in the League of Legends."
"The Noxian High Command informed us that they no longer consider you Champions for Noxus," Vessaria added, her face cold.
"For what reasons?" Cassiopeia spat venomously, although they each knew why.
"We make a point not to become involved in the politics of individual city-states," Ezekiel began, "but leaders are allowed to make any chan-"
"Just answer the question," Katarina interrupted.
With an hard stare, the Noxian Summoner Sander replied, "The High Command has deemed each of you too weak to represent Noxus in the League of Legends." Surprisingly, his gaze softened slightly as he finished, "In warning, you have also been deemed fugitives, to be executed on sight."
"But as Senior Summoner Montrose stated, we do not involve ourselves in the individual matters of city-states," Vessaria advised. "While we cannot guarantee your safety, the rules of the Institute of War prohibit fighting within our walls."
"You will need to commission as independent Champions in order to stay within the Institute of War and fight within the League of Legends, however," Keirsta commented. "Are you willing to do so?"
"Would we be still sitting here if we didn't intend on doing that?" Katarina remarked snidely.
Vessaria's red eyes flashed and her mouth turned down momentarily in a frown. "Show some respect. Your formal acknowledgment, please."
Katarina looked to her side to find that Cassiopeia and Talon were no longer next to her and was momentarily caught off guard to see that Garen was now sitting across from her, so much so that she reached out a hand, but withdrew it just as quickly.
"This again?" the assassin grunted.
Garen gave her a gentle grin that made her heart jump to her throat even though she knew it was just a lie. "I think you'll find that I am graciously refraining from showing you your innermost secrets," his deep voice rumbled. "Why do you want to re-join the League, Katarina DuCouteau?"
Katarina scoffed. "Because we have no where else to go, and if I'm going to kill Swain and LeBlanc, I need a place to work from."
The Demacian laughed, then moved to close the space between them, resting a hand on her cheek. "Is that the only reason?"
Closing her eyes, she ground out, "You. Aren't. Him."
"Don't you want to be close to me?" he asked insistently.
Through gritted teeth, she snarled, "Yes. Now get out of my head."
Vessaria's short laugh was the only response she received as a flash of light washed over her and the room around her re-materialized. This time, Cassiopeia and Talon sat on either side of her, both looking as aggravated as she felt.
"Congratulations, Champions," High Councilor Keirsta smiled. "You have passed again. We will adjust your statuses to reflect your new alliance. Or lack thereof. Please, continue to abide by Institute rules."
Summoner Carin, who had been standing by the entrance the whole time, indicated them to follow her back into the hall. "Thank you for coming," Lessa said politely, motioning toward the door, which opened on its own. "Have a nice day."
"I didn't think they would pull that stunt again," Cassiopeia muttered after the door shut behind them.
Talon nodded, "At least it was fast this time. And less... you know." They could all agree on that.
The three continued to retrace their steps back through the marble halls in relative quiet, until Katarina eventually declared, "I don't know about you guys, but I would love to kill something." Tension broken, Talon and Cass laughed.
"I could go for that," the hooded assassin approved.
Cassiopeia shook her head. "Bloodthirsty, both of you. I'm going to figure out our housing situation first, because clearly I'm the responsible one around here." Her statement elicited another round of laughs from Katarina and Talon. "Real mature," she chided in mock derision. "See if you have places to stay when you're done with your slaughter, vagrants!" For all her threatening, she gave them a small smile as she turned to slither down a different pathway.
"I guess being independent has its perks," Talon proposed as he and Katarina continued on toward the busier end of the Institute and the summoning platforms. "We can volunteer for a lot of different matches now."
The red-head grinned. "That's true. Hopefully there'll be something open for us right now,otherwise we'll just have to settle for killing each other, one on one. Oh!" she exclaimed, stopping in the middle of the hall. "I just remembered, I need to check something really quick. It'll only take a few minutes. I'll meet you on the summoning platform."
Before the assassin could reply she took off at a sprint to the residence hall, for the most part skillfully dodging people as she passed, though she did bump into the Champion Sona as she rounded a corner, who banged down on her etwahl in a discordant sound. Katarina didn't pause though, only shouting "Sorry!" over her shoulder as she continued her run, finally skidding to a breathless stop when she reached the room in which Garen was lodged.
She knocked a few times and waited, but she heard nothing and knocked again, more urgently. Clearly, he wasn't there, but she wasn't surprised. After pausing for moment to think, the assassin bolted again, heading a few corridors over to the mail room. Her sudden appearance caused the mail-clerk to jump, sending papers flying.
"Any messages for Katarina DuCouteau?" she demanded.
"J-just a minute," the wide-eyed attendant gasped, clutching her chest as she edged away into the back room. The red-head tapped her foot impatiently until the woman reappeared, a folded sheet of paper in hand. "There's just the one," she said, though Katarina snatched it from her the second it was in reach and wandered quickly into the hall, leaving the bewildered mailwoman without another word.
Katarina read the Garen's note as she walked mechanically to the summoning platform, a frown slowly forming on her face. It was dated the 17th, the day she left for Noxus, and five days had passed since then. Why hadn't he tried to message her again? Not that she was one to talk, she mentally scolded herself; she had a terribly bad habit of not keeping in contact with people. Still...
Before she could continue puzzling over Garen's message, the assassin was jarred from her thoughts as a rough voice boomed, "Going my way, babe?"
Her head jerked up and she immediately felt her temper flare. "Piss off, Draven," she snapped. Suspicious eyes were cast their direction as the threat of violence exuding from the assassin was almost palpable.
Draven pushed off from the wall on which he was leaning, a taunting grin on his face as he fell into step behind her, axes in hand. "That's not very nice. Draven's just trying to be friendly."
Katarina barked out a scornful laugh. "What do you want?"
The pompous man leaned over her shoulder. "You know," he taunted, his breath hot on her cheek, "there's a reason they call me the Glorious Executioner..."
In a flash, Katarina drew her daggers and met steel with steel, ignoring the shouts from the people around them, her . "I'd like to see you try," she challenged, closing the gap between them with a flurry of strikes that he blocked casually, back-pedaling toward the summoning platform. The hall was big but not like the Fields of Justice; as long as he didn't start throwing those axes...
"Ooh, Kitty Kat's got some claws!" Draven called, baring his teeth in a predatory smile, but still maintaining his defensive stature. "I thought the Demacian had you tamed."
A knife grazed his cheek as it whizzed past, and the sound of it clattering against the far wall accompanied her shout. "Shut up!"
The Executioner smirked and hurled an axe the short distance to her spot. Katarina barely dodged as the second blade flipped out, doubling the axe's length, and there was a thunderous crack as it hit the wall before magically ricocheting back into his hand. "So are the rumors true? Are you ****ing him?"
Katarina's eyes widened and all reason left her.
She was already mid-leap when a blast of magic hit her and stopped her mid strike, the tip of her dagger only a foot away from Draven's neck and his axe arcing toward her stomach. To her surprise, Talon was frozen beside her, his blade arm extended to intercept the axe's strike.
Glancing around wildly, her eyes landed on Keirsta who was poised with outstretched arms ten feet behind Draven.
"Did we not just talk about abiding by Institute rules?" the High Councilor demanded.
"This is Noxian business, princess," Draven drawled. "No need to get involved."
Gone was the demure High Councilor Keirsta. She frowned and flicked her wrists, sending a painful pulse of energy coursing through each of the Champions before she flung them apart and dropped them unceremoniously onto the floor.
"It may be, but within the Institute of War, you abide by our rules and that means no fighting within our walls!" Pointing at the three Noxians who lay in a crumpled heap, she finished, "Katarina, Draven. Follow me. We need to discuss the damage you two have done to the hall. Talon, you will talk to Senior Summoner Grieve. Now! "
The two assassins stared with murderous intent at the swaggering executioner while they silently rose to follow the summoner. Draven simply offered Katarina the haughty smile which she was quickly growing to hate.
Keirsta motioned the two Champions into an empty study nearby, slamming the door behind her. "I understand there is some tension going on within Noxus, but the Institute of War is the governing power in Valoran, and you will respect our authority!"
Draven's eyes narrowed. "One day, you won't be as fast as you were today," he threatened. "Nothing stops Draven from getting what he wants."
"Then I will discuss with High Councilor Kolminye the appropriate sanctions to keep you in check," she declared, matching his unwavering gaze. "And you," she said, rounding on Katarina, "after just being reassessed for Champion status, you so flagrantly engaged in this petty fight-"
"Petty?" the assassin repeated. "This ****ing psycho is trying to kill me!"
"Bystanders indicate that you initiated the fight, Miss DuCouteau," Keirsta stated. "You are not a child, so do not try and say you were provoked!"
Fuming, Katarina bit her lip to refrain from lashing out at the summoner. But he did provoke her!
"Once we have assessed the cost for repairs, you will repay the League for the damage done. Katarina, you may leave. Draven, you come with me."
The assassin stormed out of the study as fast as her feet would carry her, dashing downstairs to the Institute's archives, an unstimulating environment where she could compose herself, before she did something both violent and regrettable The summoner Octavius gave her a cheerful wave as she strode past which she returned with a nod, continuing past into the stacks at a slower pace.
Sanctions? Pathetic. Although she couldn't claim to understand what went on in the ridiculous man's mind, she knew he was driven and would not stop until he achieved his goals, restrictions or not. But the League was still the safest place, and now she was going to be stuck here until Draven lost interest or killed her.
No, those couldn't be the only options!
Katarina supposed she could kill him first. He had to sleep sometime, and between herself and Talon, surely one of them possessed the stealth to accomplish a simple nighttime assassination. It would have to be outside the Institute, or else she'd be subjected to whatever Institute punishments awaited such a crime.
With a groan of frustration, the assassin collapsed into chair at the spot she and Garen previously used for reading and rested her head on the table. How did politics ever become so wrapped up in killing?
"Poor Katarina. What's the matter? Someone slay your family right in front of you?"
She didn't need to look up to know who that callous voice belonged to. "Go. Away. Vayne."
Vayne snickered at her dark inside joke as she sat down across the table from Katarina. "I heard about your plight with Noxus. How unfortunate."
"Did you come here to gloat? Because my temper is very short today," the red-head warned, pulling a knife from her belt.
"I'm just here to pass on some information you might find intriguing," the woman said, adjusting her glasses. "About the situation in Demacia."
Finally, Katarina lifted her head. "What situation?"
A calculating smile curved Vayne's red lips. "It figures you wouldn't have heard yet. Jarvan III is trying to keep everything under wraps. It started with your plaything, Garen Crownguard."
Deep breath, count to ten...
"Please, explain," the assassin commanded through gritted teeth.
"It would appear Garen was charged with treason for aiding you in search of your father and due to the...explicit nature of your relationship," Vayne remarked, raising an eyebrow.
Katarina felt her face burn. "H-he said that?"
"He didn't have to. They imported some new Piltoverian techmaturgy that did it for him," the huntress clarified. "But it brought up some other things the king wasn't pleased with. Long story short, Demacia is out four of its strongest League Champions: Garen, Lux, Jarvan IV, and Shyvana."
Taken aback by the news, the red-head quickly asked, "Why would Jarvan III do something so stupid? They barely have any League presence now!"
Vayne actually looked somewhat apprehensive, which the Noxian found unsettling. "I wondered the same, so I did some investigating of my own." The huntress leaned in slightly, her voice lowered, and continued, "Jarvan had a very reliable source, who claimed if the Demacian Champions went unchecked, events could snowball into the next Rune War. High Councilor Vessaria Kolminye herself."
"But that's against all the law!" Katarina cried in a hushed tone. "Summoners can't relay that kind of personal information!"
"I know," Vayne nodded. "I intend to look into it. With the Relivash scandal still so fresh in my mind, I'm thinking Kolminye was involved as well. Prevent the next Rune War? More like cause it! Even without your family, Noxus now has 5 more Champions present in the League."
Her brow furrowed, Katarina asked, "But what why would Vessaria want to cause another Rune War? She's a High Councilor"
"I'm...not sure," the Night Hunter admitted as she rose her chair. "But I will find out."
"Wait!" Katarina interjected, her green eyes downcast. "Do you... know what happened to Garen?"
The bespectacled woman smirked, "He was exiled and had his Demacian Champion status permanently revoked. I heard he was going to Kalamanda. Probably too ashamed to show his face around here."
"Are you...going that direction?" the assassin asked with a frown.
Scowling, Vayne stated disdainfully, "I'm not your post-office," as she stalked into library's shadows.
Katarina jumped into motion at a brisk pace to the library entrance, taking the stairs to the first floor two at a time. Kalamanda was just a short walk away, if she snuck out, just for a little while...
She was joined by Talon who dashed to her side, muttering, "Where did you go?".
"Library. Listen, there's something I have to look into. I need to leave the League for a bit," she rushed.
The hooded assassin grabbed her wrist and yanked her to a halt in the middle of the hallway. "Woah, wait, start over. What's going on?"
Katarina hesitated for a second, then motioned him to follow her to her room. As soon as the door shut, she quickly summarized the situation as Vayne informed her. "So, I want to go to Kalamanda. You know, see if we still have an ally."
Talon listened dutifully throughout her explanation and remained quiet for a few moments afterwards. When he finally spoke, he did not say what she anticipated. "What Draven asked about, is it true?"
A brief look of surprise passed over her face, but she felt the flush creeping up her neck. "No! He was just saying that to piss me off."
His face showed that he wasn't buying it. "So you want to go check on a man that helped get us into this mess?"
"It's... well, I mean-"
"Don't lie to me!" he hissed, eyes flashing in anger. "It's true isn't it?!"
She said nothing, setting her jaw and turning her gaze to the side as he shook his head, looking more upset with each passing second. "How could you do something so selfish?!" he shouted.
"It's no big deal!" she muttered, waving her hand. "It wasn't hurting anyone!"
Talon leapt up from his seat on the edge of the bed, towering threateningly over the woman in front of him. "Wasn't hurting anyone?! We're marked for death! And you're willing to risk your life to go see him?! I mean, ****! You risked mine and Cassiopeia's lives just to ****ing spread your legs for some Demacian-"
He wasn't expecting the solid punch she landed to the side of his face.
"**** YOU! Is it so wrong that he makes me happy?! You think I don't know how ****ing stupid it is?! I never thought things would turn out like this!"
She had never seen Talon lose his composure so thoroughly: His face was red, twisted in an expression of rage, his fists clenched tightly at his side. "Well, then I hope you're happy now," he snarled and, with nothing more to say, he flashed to the door, slamming it shut before she could stop him.
Katarina screamed in frustration, taking her daggers and stabbing them into the bed, not caring about damages or about how childish she was acting. Talon didn't know how hard she resisted, tried to stop, keep away. He didn't know how maddening it was that nothing had worked, that Garen was like a cancer that had grown in her bones, dooming her from the first time they'd clashed blades.
A quiet whimper escaped her throat and the dam broke, all the anger, frustration, helplessness, and fear she'd shoved away and ignored, finally escaping. Her shoulders shook as she cried. No, no, no, she was strong, this wasn't her...
She pulled her daggers from the mattress and hurled them into the wall, taking their place face down in the sheets as she sobbed. It was the middle of the afternoon, but physical and emotional exhaustion had taken their toll, and sleep soon claimed her.
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